Paper or Plastic?: The Books vs. Kindle Showdown

Ever since we announced our exciting giveaway contest, it’s been nothing but Kindlemania here at the ‘Gasm. At our weekly meeting down at an undisclosed location near the docks, the site’s contributors couldn’t help but debate just what Jeff Bezos’ dream baby means for the future of the printed word. I won’t lie and say that the conversation wasn’t heated.

Once we managed to calm down and bandage our wounds, it was decided that for Earth Day, it would be worthwhile to run a serious comparison between the new device and the traditional word-delivery system it has been designed to replace. Much has been made on how the Kindle will affect the world of publishing and the content of the printed medium, but by doing this, other, less obvious aspects of the two systems are inevitably ignored. Hopefully, this 10-scenario post will be the first step in correcting this mistake.

Now, in order to conduct this analysis, it fell to me to devise a series of situations and —using state of the art computer software I downloaded illegally from a warez site (don’t worry, I use a Mac and don’t have to worry about bugs) — investigate how in these hypothetical instances a fully-loaded Kindle would compare to its equivalent number of 200 books.

You’ve just graduated from college and have found an exciting new job in the big city! Unfortunately, the only apartment you can afford is on the top floor of an eight-story walk-up. Without the benefit of an elevator, you must carry your entire library up those stairs (with or without the help of friends you’ve conned with the promise of free beer and pizza).

Books: Depending on the kind of literature you prefer (be it cheap romance paperbacks or enormous and expensive limited-edition coffee-table books) — as well as your inclination to either pack a smaller amount of large, heavy boxes or a larger amount of small, lighter ones — owning 200 traditional books will require anywhere from four to eight trips up and down those eight flights of stairs. Given the generally sedentary nature of the average person likely to actually own that many books, this will easily represent the most strenuous physical activity of your life, and though many of you will come away stronger from the experience, others will no doubt perish as the result of this onerous exertion.

Kindle: Can be taken up in one trip, presumably in a box filled with other non-literary appliances and/or items.

Winner: Kindle

Government experimentation has caused the dead to rise up from their cold and lonely graves and stalk the living in search of sweet, nourishing brains. Thanks to some lucky breaks, you find yourself safe inside a secure location with plenty of food and water. Unfortunately, due to the rushed nature of the emergency, a necessary ration of toilet paper was not included amongst your supplies.

Books: Used wisely, the pages from 200 books could easily last you until a solution is found to finally bring an end to the terrible zombie holocaust.

Kindle: Lacking any absorbency, the hard, plastic Kindle is not only going to become unbearably disgusting after just one use, but even with the greatest of care will likely prove highly irritating to that extremely sensitive part of the human anatomy.

Winner: Books

You and your neighbors fear that your children may start “experimenting” with “alternative” lifestyles if they are exposed to “ideas” that don’t square with the philosophy espoused in your pastor’s sermons. It’s decided that a good way to stop this from happening is a symbolic public immolation of the texts that contain these dangerous thoughts.

Books: Two hundred books is a small start to save our children, but still enough to start a blazing hot bonfire in the name of family values! Burn, baby, burn!

Kindle: Not only is the plastic shell hard to ignite, but once it is finally lit, the result is a pathetic flame and an unpleasant, possibly toxic smell. Not even worth the bother.

Winner: Books

A hot new barista is working behind the counter at your local Starbucks (no, your other local Starbucks). During your order, you sense that he/she is flirting with you. Once your grande hazelnut half-caf non-fat iced latte with nutmeg and cinnamon is in your hands, you decide to sit at a table directly across from the counter with the hopes of continuing the flirtation. So you don’t look like a creepy stalker person, now would be a good time to do some reading.

Books: Here, the impression you make depends entirely on the book you happen to be reading. For example, a 35-year-old man clearly enjoying the latest entry in the TWILIGHT series is most likely going to be judged as an utter douche, while a 24-year-old woman cackling with delight while reading the latest Ann Coulter screed suggests that any intimacy with her will ultimately result in permanent scarring.

Kindle: With a Kindle, on the other hand, you can keep what you’re reading a secret while leaving the impression that you are both a hip consumer of cutting-edge technology and someone with loads of disposable income. That, my friends, just might get you laid.

Winner: Kindle

Despite all your best efforts, the zombies have broken through all of your barriers and you have no choice but to defend yourself. All of your ammunition has been spent, but your will to live is so strong, you’ll throw anything within your grasp if it means another precious second of life.

Books: Assuming you haven’t used all of them as toilet paper by this time, you could last a good 30 seconds heaving them at the ravenous horde of necrotic invaders before they finally crack open your head like a honeydew melon.

Kindle: Use it wisely, because you only got one shot and the zombies are too dead to care if it’s caked in dried feces. I give you five seconds at best.

Winner: Books

dangerous bookstore 1SITUATION #6
A lawyer shows up at your door and explains that you had a crazy, long-lost uncle who died alone with a fortune in the high millions. An eccentric bibliophile, he left a clause in his will stipulating that all of his wealth was to be shared amongst his relatives whose entire personal library of books weighed more than they did.

Books: Depending on what you read and how many empty calories you eat, you just might have a shot at some big money.

Kindle: Looks like you’re going to have to keep ordering from the dollar menu a little while longer …

Winner: Books

library kidsSITUATION #7
Your eldest child insists, “Reading is so boring!”

Books: Are already the enemy, so they’re not going to be much help.

Kindle: Assuming they’re a little slow, you just might be able to trick them into thinking they’re playing a text-adventure video game.

Winner: Kindle

24 declassified veto power reviewSITUATION #8
You’ve just captured the leader of a deadly terrorist organization. You’ve just received official permission from the White House to torture that fucker anyway you want. Unfortunately, Charlie, the guy responsible for bringing the car battery and water tank, is a total screw-up and forgot.

Books: You know what hurts more than a paper cut? A thousand paper cuts.

Kindle: It may have a battery, but if you hooked it up to his testicles, it’d probably feel more pleasurable than painful,

Winner: Books

The antique liquor cabinet you bought keeps shaking every time you walk past it.

Books: Out of 200 books, one of them has to be just the right size to wedge in the spot causing uneven wobbling.

Kindle: It might fit, but what are the chances?

Winner: Books

You run a book review website and want to up your hit rate. Having dismissed the obvious-pictures-of-naked-women option, you decide your best bet is to have a giveaway.

Books: You might get one or two entries. If you’re lucky …

Kindle: Wow! You’re only six zeroes away from those sweet Perez Hilton numbers!

Winner: Kindle

It’s close, but at 6-4, it looks like owning 200 real books has the edge over the Kindle. Still, given our love for shiny toys, I suspect this has done little to damper your desire for one — no matter how useless it will prove to be once the zombies have taken over the world. —Allan Mott

Buy it at Amazon.

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Comment by Mary
2009-04-22 07:23:19

Excellent post–and so valuable for comparison shopping! 🙂

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Comment by Jessica Kennedy
2009-04-22 08:59:02


Great post!

Comment by Bradley Robb
2009-04-22 09:22:01

Awesome. Though a sharpened Kindle on a stick is a very effective weapon against zombie hordes.

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Comment by George R Perry
2009-04-22 09:23:50

Great piece. Having had to move my large book collection up and down flights of stairs, I can appreciate the appeal of the Kindle. However, since I’m also planning for the war with the Zombies, I’m loathe to get rid of my books just yet. I’m sorta conflicted like that.

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Comment by Ray
2009-04-22 09:36:41

C’mon, Zombie hordes? Really? As hilarious as this post was, did you need to go with zombies? Why not vampires or werewolves? Either is much more likely to happen than zombies! And besides books and Kindle CAN co-exist peacefully.

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Comment by Allan
2009-04-22 09:58:53

Disregarding the likelihood of any of these threats, a zombie apocalypse is inherently more dangerous due to the fact that zombies are zombies 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even on Christmas, while werewolves are only werewolves one day a month and vampires pose no threat during daylight hours. For this reason their potential wars against humanity simply aren’t as serious.

Comment by Bradley Robb
2009-04-22 14:10:49

This logic is bulletproof.

Comment by R
2009-04-22 10:46:45


You’re looking for a picture of Charo’s boobs.

Winner: Anyone who looks for them at Bookgasm.

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Comment by Paula Krapf
2009-04-22 11:31:26

I would recommend a collection of at least 200 books (I’m sure we have more than that) AND a Kindle. Then you win in every scenario. 🙂

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Comment by Erik "Hooper" Held
2009-04-22 11:33:47

200 books, should they be fantasy, can be used to construct a rampart of sorts to slow the zombie horde’s advance through your last redoubt, giving you time to get the woman and her kid into the escape tunnel, allowing you to utilize the remaining books to kill yourself for participating in such a poor third act.

There. I said it.

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Comment by michael
2009-04-22 14:03:13

I would want a Kindle to fight off the zombies. Remember the old TV series “MacGyver” where he would save the day with ordinary household items? A Kindle would let you check out over a hundred how to books so you could “MacGyver” the zombies without you first having to kidnap Richard Dean Anderson. The Kindle would also be better than Mr Anderson, it would not suddenly turn into a zombie.

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Comment by Paladin08
2009-04-22 14:55:30

Kindle assigns the word, “obsolete”, to things like:

2) used bookstores and library sales
3) swinging a heavy, book laden school backpack at the bully in defense of yourself
4) would we really need school lockers any longer?!?
5) using the excuse that you can’t do your homework because you forgot that one book, for that one subject back at school in your locker

and the list goes on. . .

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Comment by Rod
2009-04-22 17:49:30

Neglected to mention earlier: barista photo courtesy Eris Siva.

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Comment by Pam
2009-04-23 11:03:02

This is funny but in now way is it relevant to what the article was supposed to be about. Kindle vs. books in unreal created situations using illegal software just doesn’t appeal to me.

Would love to read a post on the pros and cons if you happen to write one. Mentioning facts such as publishers are wary of putting their books on because of DRM and Amazon can suspend your account if you make some mistakes ordering other stuff from their site and have a few returns in a row.

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Comment by Allan
2009-04-23 11:51:44

As the author of the piece, I think I have a good idea of what it was supposed to be about–making people laugh. If you seriously want to read a post/article like the one you describe I suggest you do a quick Google search. I’m sure by the time you’ve read the 734th link, you’ll have learned everything you need to know.

Comment by Pam
2009-04-23 18:46:02

Okay so constructive criticism lands you a snarky comment from the author here. I’ll remember that. I did say it was funny maybe that didn’t flatter your piece enough.

By the title of your post you are in no way prepared for the zombies and other things put out here, I was only stating a fact that because I don’t Google search for information I was led here by a link, by people linking your stuff and that it gains you visitors you should be grateful. I will however at your suggestion use Google before I read this site for information again.

Very funny article but not relevant to the title in any way.

Comment by Allan
2009-04-23 19:15:41

I apologize if my response struck you as “snarky”, it just seems absurd to me that someone would suggest that they would have a clearer insight into a piece’s true purpose than the person who created it. Absurd and not a little arrogant. The fact that the title leads people to believe that the article will be about one thing instead of another is, in fact, a comedy device known as a “swerve”. I suspect that the person who left the link you clicked on was aware of this when they posted it.

Comment by Rod
2009-04-23 20:26:33

FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! Welcome to Bookgasm, Pam — we’re rarely serious.

Comment by Pam
2009-04-23 20:46:14

No not being arrogant or telling you how to do your job. I said I interpreted from the title that this piece was going to be about how they differ, not zombies and such.

I am also appalled to see a lack of professionalism here in what I thought was one of the top book review sites.

I thrive on criticism, I enjoy when someone points out what I have done that could have possibly been better. I apologize for having commented here and it will not happen after this one again. To see the editor egging on something as a ‘fight’ when I thought it was an exchange of ideas is a bit disconcerting.

Not saying that you should strive to live up to my expectations of what something should be at all. By all means you know what is best for your readers and your blog, but I can be disappointed in content after reading and I am sure that is a normal reaction on anyone’s blog.

Again it is okay to be funny, I love funny and I love snarky too and at no point am I telling anyone how to do their job. I am meagerly stating that from the title I am disappointed in the content and the fact that you mention you downloaded software illegally. That bothers me a bit, that you broadcast your piracy.

Still great site.

Comment by Allan
2009-04-23 21:34:58

Aum, Pam…. The part about me illegally downloading software was a joke. I didn’t actually need to use any software to reach the conclusions illustrated in this article. I merely pulled them straight out of my ass. As for my lack of professionalism, well…. You gets what you pays for….

Comment by Rod
2009-04-24 06:38:33

Pam, the “fight” line was clearly a joke, made evident by the lines that followed it. I welcome an exchange of ideas. A regular visitor would have known the piece was going to be satirical, as that’s our modus operandi. The title and content are right for *this* site (we’re half-named for an orgasm, after all), but not for most other sites. Sorry you expected something else, which got you off on the wrong foot here, but we’re not your enemy.

Comment by Louis Fowler
2009-06-15 02:45:10

I love Pam. She is priceless.

Comment by Douglas Moran
2009-04-23 21:13:35

Um, neither? I think eReader on the iPhone is superior.

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Comment by Tomato
2009-04-26 15:16:40

So Allan…where can I get this illegally downloaded software
that would enable me to pull humourous articles out of my ass?

Pirate love and barnacles


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Comment by Allan
2009-04-27 02:33:47

But ‘Mato if I told you my secret, everyone would be doing it and I’d feel a whole lot less special.
Call me Captain Hack Sparrow.

Comment by Jenners
2009-04-26 21:16:54

Found you via Kittling Books and this is my first visit here but based on this post, I’m definitely interested in reading more!

As a proud owner of a Kindle and more than 200 books, I’m happy that I will be well-prepared for all your situations — whether I’m torturing terrorists, fighting zombies or picking up baristas! What a relief! This was great! : )

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Comment by Kaethe
2009-05-29 09:18:18

Thank you so much! Others have listed pros and cons of the Kindle, but no one has addressed the kinds of things I really worry about. Moving, leveling furniture, and the zombie apocalypse are the kinds of issues I face almost daily. Another advantage of 200 real books: you’re much more likely to find a recipe for possum in one.

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Comment by sarah
2009-06-11 15:16:21

Please email me , Mr Allan Mott. I would like to cite you as a source, though would like your permission first.

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Comment by Allan
2009-06-11 19:50:00

Cite away Sarah. I’d send you an email saying as much, but the comment-thingie that’s supposed to give me your address is a fickle-mistress and didn’t come my way. I would love to see whatever it is once it’s finished.

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